Kiss Me, Kate ★★★★ Barbican Centre | Jun 4 - Sep 14, 2024

Wunderbar! This splendid production of Cole Porter's classic hits all the right notes. The story is simple enough. A company of actors is trying to put on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew while its two previously divorced stars engage in their own battle of love lost and love won. The most challenging thing here is how do you manage both Porter's musical comedy, and Shakespeare's play, so that they don't offend our contemporary sensibilities about gender roles, and director Bartlett Sher and company manage to do this all quite cleverly. The 1948 story and the original are mildly tweaked, while the jokes still work and the music is, of course, unforgettable. As Fred Graham/Petruchio, Adrian Dunbar displays some excellent comic timing, and for his first major singing role does a fine job in his solo number, "Where Is The Life That Late I Led." As for Stephanie J. Block in the role of Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, one can't say enough. She brings a voice to the show that is simply thrilling. Block's interpretation of "So in Love" is an extraordinary moment that takes the old favourite to new heights. Her rendition of "I Hate Men" is great fun and is only matched by Georgina Onuorah's "Always True To You In My Fashion." The latter is a highlight in a show with many highlights. With the choreography, Anthony Van Laast pulls out all the stops, and the dancing in "Too Darn Hot" was everything one wants from a big old-fashioned production number. Kudos also to Hammed Animashaun and Nigel Lindsay for their thoroughly amusing mugging through "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Kiss Me, Kate is the perfect summer diversion that is bound to have you smiling and humming as you leave the theatre.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson

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